Aug 25, 2010

Do we need a business case for poverty reduction?


I was reading up on poverty reduction policies and I came across a paragraph by Dalhousie University economics professor Lars Osberg that was just begging to be shared and discussed on PolicyNote:

[I]f one takes seriously the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which Canada is a signatory), it makes no more sense to ask “what are the costs and benefits of preventing poverty?” than to ask “what are the costs and benefits of prohibiting torture?” If individuals have both the right to be free from torture and the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, than these are simply constraints which all other social and economic decisions must respect.

These words, written twenty years ago in Osberg’s 1990 working paper “The Costs and Benefits of Anti-Poverty Policy” (available here), made me wonder what it would take for the BC government to adopt a comprehensive poverty-reduction plan.

Is it a business case outlining the benefits of poverty reduction that will convince them? Or do we need a change in attitude, a new way of looking at social and economy policy that puts human dignity first?